Friday, May 29, 2015


29 May 2015: About 10 days ago, America's Ship of State, USS Constitution entered the dry dock at Charlestown Naval Shipyard for a 3 year overhaul and rehabilitation. I posted a couple of before and after pictures but could not lay my hands on a time lapse of the whole event.  

Finally, courtesy of USS Constitution Museum, located in the Navy Yard, I have got it! It is short, but quite educational. You can see the dock filling, the ship moving in (really fast!) and the dock pumping down as the ship settles on her keel blocks. Enjoy. Here's the link to the U-Tube video:

USS Constitution enters Drydock

As a matter of interest, the ship will be open to visitors starting next week and should you find yourself in the Boston area, I would strongly suggest a visit to not only the ship, but the extraordinary USS CONSTITUTION MUSEUM, the "voice of the Ship" as well. Both are well worth your time!

We'll put up more about this as the overhaul progresses.  

In the meantime, I wish you all
                                        Fair Winds, 
                                              Old Salt

Saturday, May 23, 2015


24 May 2015: This weekend in the United States is not about getting to the beach, cooking hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, or drinking beer. Nope, it ain't. While it's lost a lot of its significance to many citizens, let us try to remember what it is really about, and remember our fallen comrades.

                                     Fair Winds,
                                      Old Salt

Thursday, May 21, 2015


21 May 2015: The top story today has to be USS Constitution. As advertised, she entered Dry Dock #1 at Charlestown Navy Yard Monday night, crossing the sill at about 2230. While I was not there in person, I was able to watch the event on the webcam set up by USS Constitution Museum.

 Before and after - She'll be in the dock for 3 years. Plenty of time to visit - and the ship WILL be open for visiting starting in June.

Another update: Back in December of 2014, we told you that the Mayflower of Plymouth Colony fame had been taken to Mystic Seaport where their ship restoration people would begin a several year process of survey and overhaul. The plan was she would be taken back to Plymouth each Spring to be on display at Plymouth, but the work would proceed during the Winter months back at Mystic. Well, she left this week to go back up to Plymouth and arrived safely.
These pictures show her entering Mystic and then leaving for the return.

 Above, last winter as Mayflower was towed through the railroad bridge into Mystic Harbor.
Right, she is towed back out, en route to Plymouth. 

She'll be back after Thanksgiving to continue her restoration.

And now, the most exciting news (to me). I have the cover art and layout for my new book, IN HOSTILE WATERS, expected to be released in July. I will, of course, let you all know when it is available through the usual sources. We will be bringing it out in both an electronic version (Kindle) and in paper. Here's the cover:

So, I will leave you today with that spectacular bit of artwork (Painting by internationally known marine artist, Paul Garnett). 
And, until next time, I wish you all
                                   Fair Winds,
                                      Old Salt

Sunday, May 17, 2015


17 May 2015:  Before we cast off on this little trip of updates on some previous posts, let me apologize for the lapse in posting over the past week. The reason is simple and, probably to many of you, understandable: I was getting my own boat put together for the season. Took me away from the computer and focused my limited attention on The Last Word ... (my tugboat). So that said, here I am with some updates for you and a neat website you'll want to put in your "favorites" file for future looks.
First off: Hermione. 
 She is still at sea and apparently doing very nicely. The crew of professionals and volunteers are pleased with the way she sails and her obvious sea-worthiness. The word is she is still on schedule, planning to be in Yorktown VA in early June. Here is the schedule I posted a month ago when she left France:
 5-7 June, Yorktown, VA
9 June, Mt. Vernon, VA
10-12 June, Alexandria, VA
16-17 June, Annapolis MD
19-21 June, Baltimore, MD
25-28 June, Philadelphia, PA
1-4 July, New York NY
6-7 July, Greenport, NY
8-9 July, Newport RI      

10-12 July, Boston, MA
14-15 July, Castine, ME
18 July, Lunenburg, NS

In the event you find yourself near any one of these places during the summer, I would recommend a visit; you won't be disappointed!

Next: the VOLVO Race:
The boats did an "inshore" race yesterday as a "sight-seer" spectacle, and from the pictures I have seen, I guess it was, and nicely won by the "American" boat (American skipper, Turkish (among others) crew. Abu Dhabi is still in the lead on the off-soundings legs. The 7th leg, Newport to Lisbon, started today, Sunday and is the shortest leg so far at 2,800 nautical miles. There continues to be lots of opportunity for excitement (the kind sailors don't really enjoy: broken rigs, sinkings, etc) and we'll keep you posted as possible.

Finally, USS Constitution: 
 I may have mentioned a while back that she was scheduled to go into drydock this spring for the overhaul she gets about every 20 years. The dry dock in Charlestown Navy Yard was blessed with a new caisson (that's the door that keeps the water out when the dock is pumped dry) in preparation for docking the U.S. Ship of State, Constitution. She has been down rigged and the dock flooded to receive her. She was moved (by tug - no, not My tug) to a dock just outside the drydock and will be eased in on the tide tomorrow (Monday 18 May) night. The plan is for her to cross the sill (the entrance to the dock) at about 2220. Now here's the really neat part: there is, courtesy of USS Constitution Museum, a camera set up next to the dock to record the event and the various stages of the overhaul. Here's an image, current, from it:
 You can see the dock is almost fully flooded, the caisson removed, and the ship in position for entry. Since this is the last time this will happen (At least in my lifetime) for at least 20 years, it is worth a peek. I am only sorry I can't get up to Boston to see it in person. But you can tune in to the website and watch it yourself if you've a mind to. I know I will be!
USS Consitution Museum restoration images

So check out this historic event, watch it live if you can, or stay tuned for a time lapse which  I will post here.

Until next time, I wish you all 
                                       Fair Winds
                                          Old Salt

Saturday, May 9, 2015


9 May 2015: Weather: we are all stuck with it, from hurricanes, tornadoes, and (now named) winter storms to glorious spring and summer days with gentle breezes and pleasant temperatures. We tune in constantly to find out when is the rain going to stop - or start - what's  temperature expected to be, and for the sailors and yachtsmen, what's the wind forecasted to do. The science of it has become a major industry, not just on the television news with their sartorially perfect weathermen (mostly "readers") and "hot" women who talk about "highs" and "lows" and, it seems, as often as not, get it wrong. So how did it all start?

        With this man: Robert Fitzroy, Admiral Royal Navy, 1805-1865. He was likely best known as captain of HMS Beagle, the ship that carried Charles Darwin to Patagonia and onward where he (Darwin) developed his Theory of Evolution. While he more or less liked Darwin - they were shipmates for 5 years (1831-36) during the famous voyage - he often said his biggest regret was having provided Darwin with the opportunity to fly in the face of the religion that Fitzroy held sacred. While he remained friends with this famous passenger for many years, he never "signed on" to Darwin's theory which ultimately was published as "Origin of the Species" in 1859. Finally, after a particularly heated debate in public, and continued criticism of Darwin's work, he severed the connection, suffered severe depression (brought about by this failure and more, as we shall see in a moment), and ultimately, committed suicide in his home with a straight razor (How about that!). But before he did that, and following his retirement from the Royal Navy (he had been appointed Governor General of New Zealand (1843) but that didn't work out so well as he had difficulty dealing with the indigenous  Maori. He was recalled in 1845 and hung out in England until he retired in 1850), he created his most lasting legacy. It was then that he devoted himself to the study of meteorology. He also coined the word "forecasts."

He was troubled, as a naval officer, by the massive loss of life at sea, often from storms, along the coast of Victorian Britain. As a matter of interest, there were over 7,400 ships wrecked off England resulting in a loss of more than 7,200 lives. Fitzroy believed that with sufficient warning, these wrecks might have been avoided. When the Royal Charter gold ship sank off Anglesey in 1859, the Admiralty gave him permission and resources to begin to issue storm warnings. And he sent out his warnings via the new-fangled electric telegraph! 

As that technology expanded, Fitzroy used it to have far flung stations send him information on what their weather was, real time. His focus was obviously on Britain's coast but as time went on, he got information from across the Channel and added that to his forecasts. With the use of the telegraph, he was able to warn distant stations and harbors in England that a storm was approaching, and set up a signal system of hoisted shapes to warn the ships.

His predictions found their way to the Times of London which published them at first as entertainment, but once people began to "catch on" they became more serious. Then, however, like now, if he was wrong, he caught hell from his followers. Even some of those who benefited the most, Naval interests, were quick to castigate him when he erred. He threw himself deeper into the work, taking his failures personally. The Scientific community was skeptical and he worked tirelessly to convince them. The politicians whined about the cost of the telegraph he used, and fishermen who believed a forecast and stay in port, complained bitterly about lost wages if the weather remained calm when Fitzroy's forecast called for storms. His depression returned with a vengeance in the face of all this adversity and he was exhausted. He committed suicide on 30 April 1865, 150 years ago last week. 

But before he gave up both this dream and his life, he invented the barometer 

which he called a "storm glass" and

weather charts available to navigators.

 So when tomorrow's forecast doesn't pan out for you - or as you want it to - remember the man who started it all, whose claim to fame paled in comparison to his famous passenger in the 1830's, but without his contribution, we would all be floundering around without our umbrella's and trying to guess what the wind was going to do tomorrow!

Until next, I hope your skies are clear and the weather warm. And a most happy Mother's Day to those of you to which it applies!

                                                Fair Winds,
                                                   Old Salt

Monday, May 4, 2015


4 May 2015:  Today's post was to be about the world's first weatherman, Admiral FitzRoy, RN, but as I was browsing through the computer news (as posted by a certain kinda conservative cable news company) I came across this highly important news story - at least it's highly important to me, a former squid. 

Remember back in December (the 15th, in case you want to check) I posted a story about the Army Mule and the Navy Goat mascots? Actually it was a bit of a "finger in the eye" of some of my Army pals following the Army-Navy game which Navy won for the 13th time in a row. But that aside, we talked about the Navy Goat and how they used to be on ships all the time, eventually giving rise to the term "goat locker" for the Chief Petty Officers' quarters and mess. So this piece caught my attention, not only because of the incredible stupidity involved, the total lack of concern for morale in a less-than-happy environment, but the fact that it drew national attention.

It seems that a navy ship, USS Lake Erie (CG 70), stationed in Pearl Harbor, had a goat mascot aboard for several years. The ship's company named it Master Chief Charlie, and it was popular with the crew and always welcome at ship's events, especially at command picnics. So what happened? The ship, a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser, got sent to San Diego, whether for permanent reassignment or just a visit is unknown, and of course, Master Chief Charlie went too. 

And the good folks in the "cereal state" (nuts, fruits, and flakes) went ballistic; the Navy was transporting livestock contrary to California law! Really? And now the capper: in this wonderful environment of senior officers looking sideways at a politician and getting canned, the commanding officer, one John Banigan, Captain, USN, was relieved, and sent to a sail a desk until the investigation is over. Probably the end of his career! The reason given? Loss of confidence in his ability to command! Geeze! Again, really? 
Master Chief Charlie

And yet another stupid politician trick for us to enjoy! Sometimes, it stretches even my credibility! However, the goat has his own Twitter account and already has over 100 followers! And the Navy Times, which first posted the story,  promises to keep us updated as to what happens here. For now, though, Master Chief Charlie is off the ship but "in a safe place" in San Diego.

Next time, we'll talk about the weather! Enticing, right?

                                 Fair Winds,
                                    Old Salt